Coachlines - May 2022

24.05.22 Liveryman Geoff Lancaster

Coachlines meets historic vehicle restoration apprentices

At the end of 2020 a sub-committee of The Motor Car Centenary Bursary Award Committee presented its new strategy for providing funding to apprentices undertaking the Ofqual accredited course in Historic Vehicle Restoration. Two years on, Liveryman Geoff Lancaster talked to some of the beneficiaries and discovered how rapidly things have developed.

Apprentice Seb Rose

Meet Seb Rose (pictured left), who is the latest apprentice to receive a Coachmakers’ Bursary. He is in Cohort 9, the latest intake and is just coming to the end of his first year having completed 11 blocks (i.e., block release weeks). He started at the new Brooklands site recently opened by our preferred training partner, The Heritage Skills Academy, and when the Mechanical Skills stream consolidated on the original Bicester Heritage site he moved across.

Seb says: “We moved to Bicester when we couldn’t stand the noise any more of the ‘metal bashers!” The metal bashers to which he refers are his colleagues on the coachbuilding stream and they do indeed create a fair bit of noise as they carry out this year’s assignment to completely rebuild an ADO20 Mini which started life as a much later Rover Mini. I suppose you could call it a retro mod? I don’t know why…ask the owner who entrusted it to the apprentices!

Seb works in Dorset for renowned MG specialist Barrie Carter, who at just turned 80 has given up circuit racing and is handing the day-to-day running of the business to long-time associate, Alan Bartlett. On his blog he claims that Seb (just 18) has perfect complementary skills to the other members of the team.

When I speak to Seb I detect the qualities in a young man that so often are evident when one meets HSA apprentices. Firstly, forget any notions of the ‘whatever generation’. This young man knows exactly what he wants to achieve. In his own words: “I have only ever wanted to work with historic cars…the course is fantastic. I’m living the dream.” Before I terminate the interview, like all good journalists I ask if there is anything more he would like to say. There follows an erudite discourse on the merits of the Ford Consul Classic: “You remember, the one that looks like a blown up Anglia.” I try to be clever and say, “Oh yes I remember, the one with the 1340 Kent engine”. He replies earnestly that his is uprated to 1500cc. Of course it is! It turns out this is Seb’s first car, and as we older persons know well what everyone says about first love and first car – never forgotten.

Apprentice Liam Williams

Liam Williams (pictured right) works in a very different environment. He is also 18 and started at HSA a year earlier on HSA 8. Like Seb, his motivation is strong. His opening remarks say it all “I REALLY like historic cars” he says, with strong emphasis of the ‘really’. Regarding the course, he says “I am absolutely determined to complete this course.” There doesn’t seem to be much doubt of this. In his first year assessment he finished in the top quartile along with our other two Bursary recipients on HSA 8, Sam Tyrell (AJF Motor Engineers) and Ed Grose (Copredy Bridge Classic Cars).

His day job is working for 2CV Shop. He tells me his most recent task has been to completely dismantle a couple of 2CVs. Not too impressive methinks until he tells me he managed to re-assemble them with no bits left over!

“I bet you get to drive some interesting cars,” I say, “No,” says he, “I can’t drive, and I don’t own a car.” In fact, Liam has lived much of his young life in Spain. He plans to get his licence as soon as his busy life permits.

Apprentice Ed Grose

Next, I speak to Ed Grose (pictured left). Now 18 years old, Ed started working at Jensen specialist, Cropredy Classic Cars, after he left engineering college at 16. He is in the process of switching to HSA 9 based at Bicester which will save him a lot of travelling when on ‘release’ weeks. His daily driver is the teenage chariot of choice, the ubiquitous Vauxhall Corsa, but his real interest lies in his classic Triumph Toledo. Sadly, the shows he would like to exhibit it at are off limits until he can get a realistic insurance quote. As regards the course he says: “It’s great. I’ve really learnt a lot and I get to work on a variety of vehicles not solely Jensens, which makes a change. I’ve worked on all sorts from historic aircraft tugs to MG Midgets.”

It has been a busy time for Heritage Skills Academy in the two years since we resolved to channel our funding to students at this particular training provider. Despite lockdown, it has opened a second site at Brooklands, which is fully equipped for coach-working and already running courses. Also, the Academy has hardly ever been out of the news being featured in magazines such as Octane and Autocar. Most recently almost an entire episode on the Yesterday TV channel’s series, Secrets of the Transport Museum series 2. You can watch it on catch up if you missed it.

Ed Grose meets TV’s Richard Hammond